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[uh-teyn] /əˈteɪn/
verb (used with object)
to reach, achieve, or accomplish; gain; obtain:
to attain one's goals.
to come to or arrive at, especially after some labor or tedium; reach:
to attain the age of 96; to attain the mountain peak.
verb (used without object)
to arrive at or succeed in reaching or obtaining something (usually followed by to or unto):
to attain to knowledge.
to reach in the course of development or growth:
These trees attain to remarkable height.
Origin of attain
1300-50; Middle English atei(g)nen < Anglo-French, Old French ateign- (stem of ateindre) < Vulgar Latin *attangere (for Latin attingere), equivalent to Latin at- at- + tangere to touch
Related forms
attainer, noun
reattain, verb (used with object)
unattained, adjective
unattaining, adjective
well-attained, adjective
1. secure. See gain1 .
1, 2. miss. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for attain
  • Rockfish are exceptionally long-lived fish; black rockfish live to age 40, and yelloweye rockfish can attain ages of over 100.
  • It's a goal that disciplines minds, even if you never quite attain it.
  • Many attain the grades normally needed to get into university.
  • How-to investment books tell readers how to attain the moneyed life.
  • Readers will be introduced to some novels for the first time, and will attain deeper understandings of others they already love.
  • Instead of avoiding negative thoughts and emotions, he says, you should acknowledge and manipulate them to attain success.
  • He describes it as a story of overcoming obstacles to attain one's dream.
  • They have suggested that higher levels of electrical stimulation might attain better results.
  • It takes quite a few years in order to attain even moderate proficiency in Arabic.
  • The competition requires that a car attain 100 m.p.g.
British Dictionary definitions for attain


(transitive) to achieve or accomplish (a task, goal, aim, etc)
(transitive) to reach or arrive at in space or time: to attain old age
(intransitive) often foll by to. to arrive (at) with effort or exertion: to attain to glory
Derived Forms
attainable, adjective
attainability, attainableness, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French ateindre, from Latin attingere to reach, from tangere to touch
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for attain

c.1300, "to succeed in reaching," from stem of Old French ataindre (11c., Modern French atteindre) "to come up to, reach, attain, endeavor, strive," from Vulgar Latin *adtangere, from Latin attingere "to touch, to arrive at," from ad- "to" (see ad-) + tangere "to touch" (see tangent). Latin attingere had a wide range of meanings, including "to attack, to strike, to appropriate, to manage," all somehow suggested by the literal sense "to touch." Related: Attained; attaining.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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